Three Union ministers who were in Amethi for the inauguration of the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Petroleum Technology (RGIPT) on Saturday questioned Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s absence from the event and his commitment to his Lok Sabha constituency.
Rahul Gandhi had said in a letter to Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan that he would not be able to attend the ceremony since it wasn’t scheduled on a mutually convenient date.
Union ministers Smriti Irani (textiles), Dharmendra Pradhan (petroleum) and Prakash Javadekar (HRD) alleged that Rahul was afraid of facing the people of Amethi. Their barb came two days after Congress veteran Rita Bahuguna Joshi joined the BJP and questioned Rahul Gandhi’s leadership.
The RGIPT project was conceived by the Congress government but completed by the Narendra Modi-led government. The current government reportedly sanctioned Rs 302 crore for the project against the Rs 129 crore by the then Congress government.
After inaugurating the institute, Irani, Pradhan and Javadekar distributed free LPG gas connections to below poverty line (BPL) women in Amethi, in the government’s efforts to dent the Congress connect with this constituency.
Taking a jibe at Rahul, Pradhan said, “I don’t know whether ‘Pappu’ has passed or failed in understanding whether the Rs 302 crore push was bigger than the Rs 129 crore one or not”.
Irani challenged Rahul to hold a ‘khat sabha’ in Amethi and asked the crowd if the local MP has ever targeted Samajwadi Party (SP) minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati, a local MLA in the Gandhi pocket borough. Prajapati is accused of minting millions through the state’s mining scam.
“He will never be able to speak up against Prajapati because it’s with his support that he won the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,” Irani alleged.
Claiming that the Modi government has in two years given LPG connections to one lakh BPL families in Amethi, Pradhan announced that by 2018 his ministry would ensure that nearly 170,000 remaining BPL families too are covered.
A skill-development centre inside the RGIPT campus was also promised. Javadekar assured Irani of an open school and a national open university in Amethi soon.
The distribution of LPG connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme to 1021 women — 21 of whom were handed over connection letters by the ministers — was preceded by some drama with one Shamil Hussain, an officer of the petroleum ministry who was asked to come on stage.
“He was the officer who was sent to invite Rahul Gandhi for the function. But Rahul Gandhi’s office refused the invite,” the ministers claimed, alleging that the local MP was unable to face the people in the presence of ministers from the Modi government.
The Gandhi scion had, however, thanked the petroleum minister and tweeted his inability to attend owing to prior commitments.
Glad to see our efforts in Amethi bearing fruit. Congratulations to the RGIPT family on the inauguration of the permanent campus! pic.twitter.com/Uw6XoIpiSL— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 21, 2016
“This time he cited his busy schedule. Now, we would invite him again for the unveiling of the statue of Swami Vivekananda on the RGIPT campus. And this time, we would give him enough time to accept our invite. Let’s see if he comes here then,” one of the ministers said after playing up Amethi’s neglect under the Congress leaders.
In his letter, Rahul Gandhi also reminded the Modi government about several pending projects that the Congress had initiated for Amethi. These include Jagdishpur Paper Mill, Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University, National Automotive Testing and Research and Development Infrastructure Project, Kendriya Vidyalaya (KV) and Institute of Driving Training and Research.
In response, the Union ministers listed how Amethi, which has always been loyal to the Gandhi family, was neglected by the first family of the Congress party.
Right from the Fursatganj airstrip to the petroleum institute at Jais, the roads were lined with posters both from the Congress and the BJP taking credit for the completion of RGIPT.